The root issue in the on-going trouble down under in Mindanao is the way the Philippine government has traditionally cozied up to even the meanest and baddest terrorist and rebel groups “for the sake of peace”. Currently, it is the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that is being painted as the bad guy, and rightly so because of the atrocities it is reportedly perpetrating against the innocent civilians of Zamboanga City. The ironic good guys of the moment is led by that 1970s MNLF spin-off, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — just another terrorist group as well but this time lent credibility by its being allowed to sit as a peer to negotiators representing the Philippine and Malaysian governments.
You know you are asking for trouble when you presume to grant legitimacy to terrorists. The Malaysian government, for their part, have allegedly been providing logistical and training support to armed Islamic rebels in Mindanao since the 1970s. Filipinos are being screwed at all fronts — its own national government, as well as some “friends” within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
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The origins of the MILF as a militant breakaway group from what was once considered a more “moderate” MNLF was over disagreements with the direction being taken by the MNLF leadership back in 1977 towards renouncing its own separatist agenda in favour of a more “conciliatory” deal with Manila then, a direction which bore fruit ten years later for the MNLF…
In January 1987, the MNLF signed an agreement relinquishing its goal of independence for Muslim regions and accepting the government’s offer of autonomy. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the next largest faction, refused to accept the accord and initiated a brief offensive that ended in a truce later that month. By one estimate the Mindanao-based Moro Islamic Liberation Front fielded around 3,000 troops.
Back then and in the subsequent few years, a rah-rah spirit of “reconciliation” and a whole lot of other positive new-age vibes characterised government management of the “Muslim situation” in its southern island colony. A 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF cobbled together under the presidency of Fidel Ramos, for example, features this quaint blurb…
The government recognizes the skills, capabilities and achievements of the MNLF and its capacity to develop its members for the highest echelons of military and civilian leadership. The ranks and grades of MNLF forces joining AFP shall be subject to the decision of the President in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the AFP along the principles of universality, nondiscrimination, equity and preferential treatment for the poor and underprivileged.
How times have changed. Small wonder that the MILF and Malaysian government have so far kept silent (or issued half-assed words) on the Zamboanga crisis. The only loud voices we hear surrounding this imbroglio are coming from the pompous mouths of grandstanding politicians. The MNLF head Nur Misuari, supposedly being a former classmate of Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay at the University of the Philippines, presented itself as a great opporunity for the VP to get a bit of media exposure. Some folks say that Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III for his part, not wanting to be outdone, flew to the battlezone to get a bit of sunshine and assure everyone that he — and not his VP — was on top of the situation. Then there is presidential sidekick Mar Roxas, Secretary of Interior and Local Government, also pitching in as the proverbial third wheel.
Too many cooks are spoiling the bloody broth. And the blood broth, indeed, is spilling all over the kitchen. It is a military operation being commanded by a motley crew of vote-starved bozos. Where is the military leadership in all this? Well, considering that soldiers are being left to beg for food scraps even as they lay their life on the line to control the situation, suffice to say they are not having a very nice week.
If I were a civilian politician, I wouldn’t piss off the Army. The Philippine military, after all, has always been a major player in extraconstitutional leadership changes. Images of soldiers being killed and eating scraps of rice off banana leaves spread on the ground ain’t exactly good motivational collateral in a time of war.
Consider too the families of soldiers who died gallantly fighting the MNLF, the MILF, and the New People’s Army (NPA) over much of the country’s recent history. What would they be thinking of successive governments who rewarded violence with sovereign-sanctioned legitimacy. The MNLF was given their Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the MILF is on the verge of being rewared with a Bangsamoro “nation”, and the NPA’s bosses have all but infested Philippine Congress.
Where is the justice?
Despite assurances that “justice” is “just around the corner” coming from what is little more than routine campaign rhetoric spanning decades of 1980s-style Pinoy feudal “democracy”, there is none.
Nur Misuari is the Janet Lim Napoles of the Mindanao crisis. While Misuari may be guilty, he is not the only guilty party in this astounding mess, and is being held up by spin doctors and their accomplices in the Philippine Media as the poster bogeyman to distract Filipinos from what is really a systemic problem that plagues Mindanao — one that festered on account of the borderline-criminal political antics of the Philippine and Malaysian Governments as well as the leaders of the MNLF, MILF and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
[Original photo courtesy Inquirer Global Nation.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.